You ski two weeks a season, if that; you hear about the latest all mountain frontside, backside, sidecountry, fat, fill-in-the-blank technology, see the gear guide picks in those special “Buyer’s Guide” editions of every ski magazine this month and, whammo, you’re begging for a new set of sticks. Don’t buy new skis!
The pair you bought last year hasn’t even rusted yet. Do you seriously have to have the 2019 model? Whooo boy would the car industry turn around if they could figure out what skiers are drinking and bottle it for themselves. Maybe it’s time to sit tight, get creative and save yourself a grand. Who really needs new skis every year?
Ok, so maybe you do want to spruce up the quiver. Here are a few ways to do it on a budget.
“New to you” is almost the same as “new” if you do your research. Buy new skis in the fall at annual ski swaps or in the spring. Resort retail shops have to blow out their inventory to make room for the latest stock. Last season’s models -often still in the plastic- are going to be just as good as this year’s and half the price. You can find deals of more than 70 percent off brand new 2017/18 skis. I bought a pair of 2017 Rossignol Experience 88’s from Level Nine in Salt Lake City for $250. The only difference between that year and 2016 was the graphics.
Demo skis (high performance ski rentals) can be an even better score. They are part of every local ski shop’s inventory, are usually well-cared for by the ski techs but are no good to the merchant after the season ends. Sure, those universally adjustable demo bindings are clunkier than regular bindings but you can walk away with a decent pair of skis for under $200. Look closely at the bases to make sure you’re not buying beaters but to get skis and bindings for that price is epic. Bring your smartphone along for the ride so you can Google to make sure you’ve got the best price.
If you hit local events like the Black Diamond Swap (held in October) in Salt Lake City, Utah, you could buy new skis that belonged to one of your freeskiing idols like Julian Carr or Angel Collinson. Skilebrities in places like Whistler, Squaw, Alta, Jackson make their living, hocking their swag. Bonus. New this year, is the Locals Pro Sale in Park City and SLC in the fall.
Getting skis on Facebook Marketplace is cheaper than eBay and safer than Craigslist. Not only can you taste, touch, stroke before buying but they are a real person with a profile who’s unlikely to scam you. If you don’t mind buying them unseen, look at listings for cities nearest to ski destinations and ask the seller if he’ll ship. Just take a look at what’s on Craigslist SLC right now. eBay tends to be more expensive but you’ve got built-in fraud protection.
If you’re a gambler, wait until your next ski trip and buy new skis when you get there. Depending on how well you plan, not only will you save on baggage fees, hassles, and rentals but you could potentially MAKE MONEY in the deal if you sell them after your trip.
If your skis are older than five seasons and you only ski one week a year, your choice is a no-brainer. Throw them out or nail them to your wall as art and rent skis when you hit your destination. What you get from the shop is going to perform better than what you own and you’ll save a bundle. I don’t care what the magazines tell you – and by the way those “test” pages are supported by advertising from guess who? Ski manufacturers. Buying a new pair of skis before a trip based on something you read is a dumb move. Maybe those Rossi Soul 7s are perfect for your ability, height, weight, etc. Maybe. Or maybe you finally get them on the hill and can’t buy a turn. Oh, and, while we’re on it, let’s add up the cost of bringing your own skis on vacation after you buy them. Here’s the math: On Delta, skis and boots count as one bag and they charge $25 for the first bag. The second bag which would carry everything else is $35 and anything over 50 pounds is $90-175. Consider whether you can you pack the ski bag to the hilt and stay under 50 pounds. If not, checking skis separately from your luggage would cost at least $60. EACH WAY. There’s also the $175 “oversize bag fee” for going over 200cm. If the airline loses your gear not only would you have to pay the checked baggage fees but you would have to rent anyway while you waited for them to (hopefully) arrive.
So here’s a novel idea- Pack (and check) one bag ($25) and rent. The total would run you about $185pp and save you the hassle of lugging heavy, awkwardly shaped bags around the airport. Plus, you escape the whines of small children unwilling to carry their own stuff. Sites like SkiButlers.com will even come to your hotel with a four-day sport package of skis, poles and boots for about $250 with the damage waiver; it’s not cheap but you won’t have to waste time in a check out line or worry about whether you brought the “right” skis for the “right” conditions.
Ship Your Own
Still wanting to bring your own gear? You could ship everything to your vacation destination. By U.S. Post (seven days) it’s about $34 without insurance, or by FedEx Ground (5 days) you’re at $39. Companies like Sportsexpress.com will even pick up and package your skis for you before they ship them but you’ll pay about $250+ for roundtrip service for two pairs of skis. Problem here is that you have to plan ahead. Procrastinators will be SOL. What if you wanted to ski at home the day before you left? Forget it.
Don’t Buy New Skis, Use What You’ve Got
Unless you live in a ski town and arc 40 plus days a season, new skis on your feet won’t make a difference. Get a sweet tune from a local shop and call it good. One note: test your bindings. No need for a trip to the ER when a simple check from your local ski tech can make sure they’re working properly.
Buy a New Pair
I’d be a liar and a hypocrite if I didn’t disclose that my single most guilty pleasure in life- aside from pedicures- is the fall day my new skis arrive. Last year, I bought a brand new pair of Elan Ripsticks from a gal on Facebook. Hated them. Sold them this fall for $100 more. Over Christmas, I spotted the 2018 Nordica Santa Ana 100s for $300 brand new on a one-day sale. Same as this year’s but different graphics. I LOVE THEM!!!
My car is five years old, some of my street clothes are 20. But not my skis. If they’re older than two or three years, I feel self-conscious. I’m a ski instructor, ski model and ski writer. You gotta walk the talk. Or better ski the ski. What’s your excuse?